Although I knew that Willie had been hospitalised following his heart attack, and by speaking with his wife of forty years he was not good, but we all hoped that Willie being the fighter that he was would pull through.
Therefore arriving home from a hoiday in the sun to find that I had a message from a colleague telling me that Willie had passed away was still a shock to the system.
I did not know Willie as well as others in the movement, but as we were both involved in raising the awareness of the dangers of Asbesto we cam to know each other well by meeting first at the Cumbria Forum and at the Northern TUC conferences. It was Willie who engineered by first attendance speaking on an issue that is relevant to Barrow & Furness. At that conference and others we would be supportive of others who campaigned on Asbestos issues.
It was not always easy, it was never intended to be. Willie would come to Barrow whenever he could and was vey supportive of BARDS or CARDS as we are today.
Those times that I attended speaking on issues of Employment, Hospice Funding, and lastly following the floods 0f 2009 the need to improve the vital infrastructure of Cumbria I knew that Willie support would be there should the need have arisen.
On one ocassion I introduced my self as Willie's apprentice while supporting a motion, saying on introducing Barrow's that I was now out of my time.
This showed the rapport that flourished between many delegates where it was remarked on occassion that we supported each other.
Willie's efforts on the campaign for justice for asbestos victims cannot be underestimated. Like our experiences in Barrow, his loss will impact on Carlisle and the County.
As Kevin Rowan said to me prior to the January 2005 Asbestos seminar at the Abbey House," you have two hard acts to follow", namely Jimmy Picksley and Mike Hubbold, so it will be with Willie. No doubt his shoes will be filled.
Willie was not only involved with Asbestos but concerned himself with other campaigns relevant to UCATT members one of which is high profile and hasbeen for many years.
Rest in Peace Willi